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Does morality trump liberty?

Response to externalities Although externalities—the various impacts (which in theory could be positive as well as negative) on others—do not justifying banning drugs, users should be held accountable for the direct consequences of their actions. Even Thomas Szasz pointed to areas where government restrictions, such as driving while intoxicated, are entirely appropriate. So are employer restrictions on drug use which impair job performance (Szasz, 1992: 161-62). Moreover, people should be liable when they hurt others or fail to live up to their legal obligations, whatever the cause. In contrast, individuals should not be punished for simply taking substances which might make some of them more likely to hurt others or fail to live up to their legal obligations. And some harms are too idiosyncratic or diffuse—such as emotional distress to family and friends of drug abusers, lost productivity of drug users—to warrant government regulation. Harm to users Advocates of criminal enforcement also resort to paternalism, claiming that prohibition is necessary to protect users. Drug use obviously can be harmful, though advocates of government control, including public officials attempting to justify their activities and budgets, often have exaggerated the risks of illicit drugs, especially compared to the problems created by legal drugs (Husak, 2002: 93-108; Miller, 1991: 1-23). In any case, government should not attempt to protect people from themselves. Drug users generally are aware of the real (as opposed to imagined) dangers (Bakalar and Grinspoon, 1984: 170). In this way, drug use reflects an informed choice—at least as informed as most choices made by most people.